To Understand the Midterms, Look at These Specific Races

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At best, the mood in America is uncertain. This election season will be a tossup for who wins. Polls show both parties are competitive in key races, the money race is an afterthought, and airwaves are backfilled with super PACs’ spending when the candidates themselves forget to dial for dollars. The enthusiasm of voters is high even though the motivations for each party heading to the polls may be as distinct as possible.

Elections aren’t national. Every hamlet in the 700,000-strong American nation has an opportunity to elect its representative to U.S. House. A few miles could separate a stronghold of liberals in Washington and a weakhold for libertarians in Idaho. The border is shared by deep-blue Illinois from hard-red Indiana. If you are predicting an election wave, it is important to remember that a rising tide can lift all boats but not if they are all the same size. To put it bluntly, this season’s midterm campaign is not going to be the same for all contestants or candidates. Politics is all about localities, and this year’s election shows how a mere few miles can mean the difference.

A little over a month remains until Election Day. The D.C. Brief is touring bellwether House, Senate and Governor match-ups. Briefs will offer primers about five of the most interesting races in each section. What do voters need know about the race that elected a Republican in Texas’s majority-Hispanic district? Oder, what about a race where there could be a rematch of the Alaska Native who represented Alaska in Congress and former Alaska Governor? Sarah Palin? How are Latinos’ fracturing loyalties to Democrats going to affect the Senate races in Arizona and Nevada? Will the opposition party succeed in stifling White House dreams of governors? (Florida, I’m talking about you. Texas follows closely. New Hampshire? And Virginia’s governor is playing his own long game.)

One theme that runs through all of this is the fact that each race may have its own national mood. The fact is that voters in Ohio might split their ticket and vote for Republican Gov. With the same ballot, Mike DeWine will be voting for Tim Ryan, Democratic Senate candidate. This is increasingly reminiscent of New Hampshire Governor. Chris Sununu, Sen. Maggie Hassan and Senator John McCain could both be making victory laps at the respective GOP or Democratic headquarters this autumn. Oregon may also be looking for its first Republican governor in 25 years.

This political moment is one that feels oddly uneasy, but that’s not inherently a bad thing. A weak democracy is one that has predictable politics. Partisans that view November as a referendum fait accompliThey are not paying attention to the subcurrents in parochial race elections where high-qualified candidates have lost to lower-ranked competitors. Although voting has begun in some places, it is not yet complete.

So while all of our friends like to gab about politics at the macro level, it’s worth diving into a few of these specific ecosystems to examine political quirks, local deviations, and individual candidates that work. After all, the smart political consultants looking to land contracts for 2024’s money-soaked presidential contest are already out there. A win in a swing race is a great way to test your strategy and land in the White House. This week, The D.C. Brief will be covering 15 races. These are the races I am most interested in.

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